If you're feeling like it's time to outsource your SEO, how do you find the best person for that job? There are many companies out there - but as we all know, some are better than others. How do we filter the good from the bad?
In the beginning ...
Perhaps you're just starting out. Perhaps you've launched a website and not got the traffic or rankings you'd hoped for. Perhaps you're doing ok, but your core business is suffering as a result of all the time you're putting into SEO. It's hard to do everything, and even harder to do everything well - especially if there's an unexplained drop in traffic or rankings - if you're doing your own work on this it can take longer than you can afford to spend to find out what's really going on and where you need to go next.
A quick search ...
As a business owner or manager, you'll know that it can be more effective to hire in the best people for the job - but who is the best person for the job? Google can be helpful, but there are so many companies vying for your attention in the search engines:
68 million results. They're not all going to be good, though. How do you find the best ones? How about a local search?
Narrow the field
I don't live in Brooklyn, and you probably don't either, but choosing your own area will give you a better idea of the consultants and agencies working locally - but still, the first page only shows you the companies that are best for optimizing in their own industry, rather than the ones that are going to be best for your business. So how do you establish that?
Have a look at some of the sites you're seeing in the search results - don't limit yourself to page one. Read a bit about the companies that interest you, and make a note of the ones who you think you'll best be able to work with. Client lists are important, if they're included on their site - these will give you a great idea of what kind of businesses they're used to working with. Blog posts are also helpful - they'll give you an idea of what kind of people they actually are - is their tone knowledgeable but uppity? Are they friendly and informative? An SEO's own site is a great advertisement for them - so treat it like an advert ...
By now you'll have a shortlist of companies you might want to approach - but who to plump for? Hold fast, let's do a bit more research ... you might want to search on their domain name (the bit between the 'www' and the '.com') and the word 'review', for example - you may well find some other useful information about your potential provider, but there's another vital step to take before committing hundreds of dollars/pounds/yen/euros (not to mention all of your analytics data) to a stranger. You can find out more about them if they have a twitter account - do they share useful information? Are they actively talking to people about SEO or related topics (there are plenty of those - social media, online marketing, PPC)? Wil Reynolds wrote a great post about researching social media to find SEOs.
Pick up the phone
There's nothing like a good old fashioned phone call to get a really good measure of how a company operates - do they answer their phone? If not, is the message friendly? If they do, how quickly can you get to your best point of contact? Do they sound stressed and distracted, or are they warm and engaging? Do they sound interested in your project? Do you like them?
There are some important practical things to consider as well - Mark Nunney's article from 2008 about using an SEO agency and what to expect has some great advice about what to ask, which include (and I'm paraphrasing here):
- What is their method of SEO?
- What’s the process?
- Is there flexibility depending on results?
- In what way do they monitor results and how are they going to change the plan of action accordingly? Ask for evidence of their ability to maneuver.
By now you should have a really good shortlist of which companies you might like to deal with - it's just a matter of weighing up any benefits or disadvantages you've laid out from your research. Remember, there are some guys out there who don't really know what they're up to, but there are plenty of others who can do a great job for you, and sometimes even exceed your expectations.
What do you think?
Use the comments section below to tell us about your experience (but let's not be naming and shaming). Have you found someone great? Have you struggled to find an SEO who understands you and your business? Let us know.